Using movable do solfege to internalize vocabulary


In one of these threads, a while back, some of you mentioned that you’d started using solfege singing as a tool for internalizing vocabulary. This sounded like a great idea to me, but I now have some questions about how you do this in practice.

Here’s how I think this will work:

  1. Transcribe a lick some cool dude played over a G7 chord.
  2. Sing the shit out of that lick using solfege. G is do.
  3. Play over a 2-5-1 in C, while your internal do moves from D, to G to C.
  4. Rip through your new lick every time the 5 chord hits to make it usable in practice.
  5. What changes can you make to this lick so it isn’t limited to dominant 7 chords? Does it still sound good? Sing that. Play that.

Is this about right?


Couple of things. When you transcribe, try doing so away from your instrument, or at least away from your primary (guitar I assume). Second of all, sometimes a soloist is thinking dominant 7th through a ii-V. Focusing on the composition of notes over the ii may miss the bigger picture.

You will learn something breaking down to the level of individual chords, but I’d recommend changing when keys actually change. It’s worth learning the chromatic syllables to handle key changes of the moment, as when a secondary dominant is in play and you haven’t fully left the primary key. In the case of a vanilla diatonic G7 chord, I’d recommend hearing the chord tones G, B, D, F as so, ti, re, fa, and not just as, do, mi, so, te.

Julian Bradley recommends transcribing to a single key. Focusing on the various changes with regard to a single key center has worked well for me. He uses Eb Major–it’s relative minor is C Minor–which in the case of your G7 chord, that would be transcribed as Bb7, the five chord in Eb Major.

Having fussed over these things a lot in the past, now I’m inclined to encourage people to try several approaches and see what they learn from each, and to not be afraid of doing so. The doing is more important than the hypothesizing. Let us know how it goes? :slight_smile:


Thanks for an insightful post!

I’ve thought some more about this, and googled around a little, and I’m starting to think of these two variants as different views onto the same thing, with different benefits.

To me the tonal center movable do captures the melody better, because it’s super clear from the syllables how that is developing. The downside is that it’s like you’re singing that melody to a drone. The information about the chord changes that are flying by aren’t encoded anywhere.

If on the other hand you move the do with the chord changes, then it’s less clear how the melody moves, because that’s no longer encoded explicitly. E.g. Autumn Leaves:

Do Re Me | Me | Do Re Mi | Mi | Do Re Me | Me | Do Re Mi | Me

Without knowing the chords you can’t sing this at all! The upside is that it’s quite clear how each melody note is going to sound in relation to the underlying chord.

According to another interwebber, over here, an interesting thing starts to happen if you already know the melody (and your solfege) and sing it in this manner: you’ll start to hear the implicit dos in your head at the same time and can experience both the melody and the harmony simultaneously!

I think I’m going to be using the tonal center movable do quite a bit, because it’s such a powerful tool for transcription. But I still think it makes more sense to encode vocabulary using a do that moves with the chord, because that should make it a lot easier to pre-hear what the lick is going to sound like over some chord.

Am I wrong on this? Do you find it effortless to pre-hear G, B, D, F over a G7 as so, ti, re, fa?


Thanks @lars. Effortless? Ha. If my musical mind is awake, yes I do find it so. Again, I recommend plowing forward. It won’t hurt to experiment and use different approaches when it seems right to you to do so. :call_me_hand:t3: